This oven baked salmon recipe comes together in under 30 minutes, making it a perfect addition to your weeknight meals! It’s packed with flavor, doesn’t take many ingredients, and is super easy to make.
This salmon is my go-to recipe for days that I’m short on time but need a flavorful, healthy meal. The sauce uses 4 simple ingredients, and you’ll also need some garlic cloves, sugar (optional), and the star of the show: salmon!
For the salmon, you can use skin on or off. I personally prefer skin off because it doesn’t really crisp up in the oven, so it’s not too enjoyable to eat. You can also make one large salmon (about 2 pounds) for this recipe. Bake time may take an extra 5 minutes or so since there won’t be air circulating in between like it does with the fillets.
For the salmon, I prefer to cut small holes on each salmon fillet and fill each hole with half a garlic clove. I love this method more than adding chopped or minced garlic for 2 main reasons.
The first (and most important) reason is that small pieces of garlic tend to burn very early on in the bake time, before the salmon has a chance to cook. Not only does this look unappealing, but the flavor of burnt garlic is a huge disappointment.
Larger garlic will take longer to cook, and by inserting it into the salmon, it helps insulate the garlic even more to avoid burning.
The second reason I like to add larger pieces of garlic is largely for flavor. Large pieces of garlic do a great job at imparting a garlic-y flavor to the salmon as it cooks. AND once the salmon is cooked, you have little pieces of roasted garlic that you can enjoy with the salmon! Win-win.
If you see in the pictures, I also added a small slice of lemon to each salmon. That was 90% because it looks pretty, but roasted lemon is also outrageously delicious! It can be quite sour though, so a little does go a long way. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t steal all of the lemon slices off each fillet …
A final note I want to make on this salmon is about the addition of granulated sugar. If you’ve already read the recipe, you’ll notice I include a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar on top of each fillet in the end before baking. This is 100% optional, but I really recommend giving it a try!
Adding sugar to your salmon won’t make it taste overly sweet (but depending on your taste, you may need a pinch more salt once the salmon is cooked). What the sugar does do is it caramelizes while the salmon bakes and helps the salmon develop a nice deep golden color on top with an almost nutty, toasty flavor.
Serve the salmon with some plain rice, veggies, and/or salad! You’ll also have a nice golden brown layer on the bottom of your baking sheet after the baking process. Add a splash of boiled water to it and you have yourself an amazing sauce that you can use to coat your rice, veggies, or some bread with.
Watch: How to make baked salmon:
Lemon & Garlic Baked Salmon Recipe
- 1/4 cup lemon juice, about 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 fresh salmon fillets, about 1/2 pound each
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 400°F.
- In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, water, olive oil, and salt. Whisk together to dissolve the salt and mix everything together.
- Arrange salmon fillets in a 9×15 inch baking dish. Cut 2 shallow holes on the surface of each fillet (about 1 inch from each end). Insert half a garlic clove in each hole on the fillets.
- Pour the lemon juice mixture on top of the fillets. Top each fillet with about 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar (helps with browning and caramelization). If desired, add lemon slices on top of each fillet.
- Bake the salmon in your preheated 400°F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the salmon is golden on top and cooked through. If needed, broil for about 1 to 2 minutes on low at the end of the cooking time, or until golden brown on top.